James O’Connor set to join London Irish

Controversial Australian backliner James O’Connor looks set to join Aviva Premiership Rugby club London Irish on Tuesday.

“London Irish will hold a special press conference at 10.00am (1000GMT) tomorrow (Tuesday)… A significant player signing will be announced at the conference,” said a London Irish statement issued Monday.

Although there was no official statement on the player concerned, a source close to the club, who did not wish to be identified, told AFP it was O’Connor whose signing the Exiles would be announcing.

London Irish’s statement came just a day after director of rugby Brian Smith said O’Connor would make a decision on his future in the “next 24 or 48 hours”.

O’Connor has been linked with a move to the English Premiership side after the Australian Rugby Union terminated his contract following a string of embarrassing off-the-field incidents earlier this month, culminating with the talented 23-year-old being escorted from Perth airport for drunken behaviour.

But Smith, himself a former Australia and Ireland playmaker, was in no doubt regarding the rugby talent of O’Connor, who can play at fly-half, centre, wing or full-back.

“He’s a world-class player, he’s a terrific kid and I’m sure that will all be unveiled at the front end of this week,” Smith said Sunday.

“Any team in England or in France would be lucky to have him. I would imagine in the next 24 or 48 hours he will play his cards and all will be revealed.”

London Irish are currently 10th in the 12-team Premiership but they are also eight points clear of bottom-of-the-table Worcester, who currently occupy the lone relegation place.

O’Connor’s former international team-mates are about to embark on a tour of Europe, with the Wallabies playing England at Twickenham on Saturday as they bid to complete a Grand Slam (beating England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales all on the one tour) on a trip that also includes a Test against Italy.

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